PARIS (EJP)---France’s new President Francois Hollande said he will work “to fight racism, anti-Semitism and all other forms of discrimination,” in a inauguration speech on Tuesday at the Elysee Palace in Paris.
Francois Hollande was sworn in as the 24th president of France, after the outgoing president Nicolas Sarkozy handed over power in a ceremony at the presidential palace.
He said he is "aware of the challenges" that the country is facing and promises to do his best to provide unity. "Our differences should not become divisive. Our diversity should not disunite us. The country needs reconciliation," he added.
In a relatively low-key ceremony, which sought to cement his promise to run the country with “dignity and simplicity” and draw contrasts with the more elaborate style of Sarkozy’s administration, Hollande reverted to his direct style of speech which won the confidence of the electorate at the recent presidential polls and attempted to assuage widespread concerns over his lack of practical government experience:
“I am addressing a message of confidence to the French people. We are a great country that has always risen to its challenges,” he said.
Vowing not to take too dogmatic approach to his new position, he described his mandate as being “to bring France back to justice, open up a new way to Europe, contribute to world peace and preserve the planet”.
The new president said he was aware of the many challenges facing France, which he characterised as “huge debt, weak growth, reduced competitiveness, and a Europe that is struggling to emerge from a crisis”.
Mr Hollande was to fly directly to Berlin Tuesday afternoon to meet with German chancellor Angela Merkel, following a meeting with Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe.
His eagerness to set the wheels in motion on his commitment to reduce Europe’s deficit and stimulate the economy cannot be overestated, but the meeting is not expected to proceed without a degree of awkwardness.
Merkel openly supported Hollande’s opponent and outgoing president Nicolas Sarkozy in the election and Hollande has made no secret of opposing the Merkel-backed eurozone fiscal pact which tied member states to austerity measures, in contrast to Hollande’s preferred ‘tax and spend’ measures.
Merkel, for her part, has declared she will welcome the new president “with open arms”, while Hollande has sought to underplay any tensions between the two over policy: “We don’t think the same on everything,” he declared on Monday, “We’ll tell each other so that together we can reach good compromises.”
Whilst Hollande’s critics will be looking for evidence of his plans for France in Europe and beyond, the president has been clear on his vision for a cohesive French society, declaring throughout his election campaign that he would “fight against racism and anti-Semitism”.
He tried to assuage Jewish concerns over a left-wing vision for the community by declaring: “Security of Jews in France is not the problem of a particular community, it is that of the national community.”
He also spoke extensively of his plans to “build a consensus for a national community”:
“I address myself to the whole of France, without exception, without distinction, without hierarchy”.
The Jewish community’s hopes for a moderate foreign policy are likely to be bolstered later today, with reports suggesting Hollande will appoint later Tuesday head of the Socialists’ parliamentary bloc in the Parliament Jean-Marc Ayrault as his new Prime Minister, in preference to the more left-wing and politically volatile Martine Aubry.